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Sweden Beat Reigning Champions USA On Penalties.

A crazy round of 16 game sees Sweden defeat the reigning champions USA on penalties.


Another highly contested round of 16 game brought together two giants in current World Champions USA and Sweden who after a sluggish performance in their first group stage game picked up momentum to prove they're capable of winning grudge matches.


Both teams possess their own threats, Sweden centre back Amanda Ilestedt has scored three goals in three games after being a real presence in the box from set pieces. USA will have to be switched on to ensure she doesn't score her fourth of the tournament. As for USA it goes without saying that Alex Morgan is an ideal target up top, the experience and accomplished striker will be hungry for her first goal in the competition after a disappointing group stage.


The two physical sides collided from minute one as they looked to settle into their gameplans, but it was Sweden who arguably were the livelier, moving the ball well down the channels with intelligent wingers Rytting Kaneryd and Fridolina Rolfo finding effective pockets of space to exploit in behind the USA full backs. Despite Sweden's pressure neither team had created any chances inside the first 15 minutes, USA were still struggling for ideas in the final third, Lyon midfielder and captain Lindsey Horan was trying everything to find a way to break down Sweden's firm backline, but her attempted defence splitting passes were to no prevail. USA were presented with a half chance from around 25 yards out, a swift move saw the ball eventually fall to Trinity Rodman whose fierce strike stung the gloves of goalkeeper Zecira Musovic. Musovic parried the ball away with no issues and that was the end of the attack. You could depict a real tension maybe nerves as of course both teams were desperate to win, however this tension was upsetting the flow of the game a few passes were going astray and players just seemed to lack a confidence to get on the ball and be a danger. The nerves did disappear around the 25th minute as the game started to open up, this transition suited the USA who went closest to opening the scoring when again Rodman utilised her pace to get into the box and tested Musovic with another strong right footed attempt across goal.


USA were growing into the game nicely and perhaps should have taken the lead in the 33rd minute of the game as Horan powered her header over the bar. Horan couldn't keep her effort below the bar however this was promising for the USA who were showing good signs and patience to control the game as Sweden grew more erratic and desperate with their defending. Sweden weren't seeing much of the ball but were sticking to their counter attacking tactics which was the only way they could maybe hurt the United States who continued to apply pressure. The moral of the story stayed the same though for USA, a dominant first half performance with no reward as they lacked a clinical edge in front of goal. The scoreline at halftime ended Sweden 0 USA 0.


The second half started with a similar scrappiness to the first, Sweden were playing higher up the pitch to engage the USA in their defensive third making it harder for them to play out from the back and build towards creating any opportunities. USA found their feet again as the first chance of the second half and maybe the first big chance of the game fell once more to Lindsey Horan who got on the end of a cross from fox, yet somehow her curled effort which looked almost certain to hit the bottom corner was denied by Musovic who was keeping Sweden in the game. Sweden were fatiguing and dropping off as Horan was taking the game into her own hands picking up some excellent pockets causing all sorts of trouble. 60 minutes on the clock and legs were clearly tiring, whilst Sweden were running out of steam, the US were finding another gear to try and find the breakthrough goal to avoid extra time.


Sweden were showing great resilience but had to be concerned by the fact they were yet to register a single shot on target. The Scandinavians couldn't offer much but were importantly staying in the game in the hope that the US would also fatigue and begin to develop some vulnerabilities.


Time was nearing an end as the full 90 was drawing to close. It was in the last ten minutes that Sweden finally had their first shot on target but the strike from Eva Jakobsson wasn't to be the game winner as she failed to find a way past Naeher who held her position to push away the venomous shot. USA then had one last roll of the dice themselves and Alex Morgan will wonder how she didn't score. A looping cross which Sweden struggled to defend and Morgan rose highest, but her header somehow stayed out as Musovic kept Sweden's World Cup dreams alive with more heroics to get down sharply to her right and prevent a last minute heartbreak. This was the last chance of the game as the final whistle was blown which meant the teams had to prepare for another gruelling 30 minutes of football to decide who would book themselves a quarter final spot.


The USA chants could be heard all around the stadium as the American fans were trying to motivate their side to get the job done. The energy in the stadium was close to be effective as well as Alex Morgan was able to force a save from Musovic however the angle was always against her. There was a big roar in the first half of extra time, not for a goal being scored but for the introduction of Megan Rapinoe who came on in Morgans place to freshen up the USA'S attack. Rapinoe could have been the game winner as well if she didn't overrun after fox saw her shot again stopped by Musovic who would surely go on to win player of the match regardless of the outcome. Musovic was flawless in her performance not putting a foot wrong and the save from fox meant Sweden were still in the game as the first half of extra time came to an end.


So, the second half of extra time kicked off and the questioned remained could anyone find a winner? Sweden were probably the happier of the teams, not because they were on top but because they had held on for this long and with the form Musovic was in they would favour their chances if it went to penalties as Naeher had barely seen the ball. The atmosphere was roaring as both sides pushed for a winner but with only five minutes left it was looking unlikely that the game would be decided from open play. The final whistle blew and this was to be the case, USA will feel they should have won but now the reigning champions hopes would come down to spot kicks from 12 yards. As for Sweden their performance was passive but to get this far and hold of the attacks they did was impressive.


Who would hold their nerve?


USA won the toss and it was Andy Sullivan to step up first. Sullivan made no mistake smashing her penalty into the bottom left corner.


Sweden's Rolfo was next and she made no mistake a confident strike into the corner past Naeher.


Captain Lindsey Horan took on the next pressure kick and after a little stutter in her run up she pelted the ball into the top left corner.


Some great penalties on display and they got better, Elin Rubensson's shot was beautifully placed even though Naeher went the right way she couldn't get to it.


The substitute Mewis had to respond. A big kick for her after being brought on for the purpose of taking a penalty. Mewis held her nerve and put the ball into the top corner with conviction.


Sweden now needed to score. However, Nathalie Bjorn couldn't step up to the occasion blazing her effort over the bar.


3-2 in the shootout in USA'S favour. Megan Rapinoe had the chance to help her side run away with it but she couldn't deliver also missing over the bar.


Sweden were then presented with the chance to equal back at 3-3 but Naeher made the first save of the shootout denying Blomqvist whose tame effort was the perfect height for the American goalkeeper.


This gave young Sophia Smith the chance to send USA through but her effort was high and wide.


The pressure clearly getting to all the players. Sweden's Hanna Bennison didn't show any nerves stepping up next to smash her effort straight down the middle.


The score was now 3-3 and to some surprise it was goalkeeper Naeher who was next in line for the USA. It proved to be a good decision as she followed Bennison by hitting her spot kick high and down the middle.


The shootout was now in a sudden death stage but this didn't phase Sweden captain Magdalena Eriksson whose penalty was put out of reach of Naeher despite her diving the right way.


With the score 4-4 the responsibility then fell to Kelley O'Hara but in a remarkable turn of events she hit the post giving Sweden the opportunity to progress to the quarter finals.


Up stepped Lina Hurtig to potentially send Sweden through and her penalty appeared to be saved by Naeher only for goal line technology to get involved with some late controversy proving the ball crossed the line meaning Sweden were through and the champions were out.


A thrilling game with so many twists and turns, next up for Sweden is a fierce clinical Japan side as for the USA they performed much better but again were let down in the final third. They'll look back on this game and surely think they should have won but nonetheless credit to Sweden who held on in there and got their reward for exceptional resilience they portrayed.





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